Here’s why Bob Marley wrote the song “Zimbabwe”

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In 1979, Bob Marley sang about Zimbabwe “Soon we will find out who is the real revolutionary because I don’t want my people to be contrary.”, “I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries.” These are some of the lyrics in the song “Zimbabwe” from the album ‘Survival’, released in 1979.

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It was performed by Bob in April 1980, at the first Zimbabwean Independence Day concert. It was really a joyful day of celebration, even if the performance was delayed by one day due to riots on the streets in Salisbury the place that was later renamed and called Harare.

It was a time of great joy because Zimbabwe had been wracked by civil war for a long time, and liberation had finally arrived it seemed.


Robert Mugabe became the president of the coalition government that led Zimbabwe after it was independent, but Mugabe was allegedly both a mercenary and a trickster.


This description of Mugabe is not good, but Marley’s lyrics, in the song “Zimbabwe.” “Every man got a right to decide his own destiny”. Marley believed that right had finally been recognized in this part of the Motherland, it seemed.

bob marley in zimbabwe

The people in the country were so hopeful after they officially received independence from British rule in 1965. Marley rightly said, “To divide and rule will only tear us apart,” as he described the colonial foreign policies in Africa that were otherwise known as “divide and conquer”.

The political situation went from bad to worse following the British rule, comparable only to its brethren political organization. The Apartheid regime in South Africa was bad; but both of the countries paled in comparison to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Former-Rhodesia apartheid was equivalent, it had Ian Smith maintaining a similar agenda of exploitation and oppression between 1965 and 1979. The responsibility of leadership has fallen on the leader’s shoulders to sustain civilization in a primitive country,” Ian Smith stated on the announcement of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence on November 11, 1965.

In order to really understand the extent of Smith’s Republic of Rhodesia’s tight grip on the land, it should be kept in mind that by the time of independence, the one-percent white minority was still in control of 70 % of the country’s arable land.

This possession was maintained by force. Although there is not much information about what Smith did to hold on to his power, the silence, and secrecy made him look guilty.


When the mass-exploitation of people and their resources took place, land reform could be seen, as the right thing to do. And if it had happened just after emancipation, it is possible there would be fewer problems. However, Mugabe revealed at the beginning of the New Millennium that white-owned farm-land should be redistributed without a proper program, without any compensation, using any means necessary, it was easy to see that this was not a controlled political act.

As expected, total anarchy followed that caused the Zimbabwean currency to be worthless due to hyperinflation it was not worth the paper it was printed on; reclaimed farm-land was not being used, and Mugabe’s people became recipients of international food-aid programs as mass starvation began.

People are now asking if this is liberation? Marley’s often-idealistic lyrics had in them seeds of doubt. He proposed, “so soon we find out who is the real revolutionary,” it was not idly stated, but did he know the risks?

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